Feed Icon: Trademark, Agreement, Guidelines, what?

It’s been quiet on the Feed Icon front for the past few months. After releasing the download package and creating feedicons.com, the thing spread like wild fire! I was expecting the blogging community to jump on board without a doubt, but the widespread adoption has been incredible.

When I launched feedicons.com, it was meant to be a temporary home where people could grab the icon and get a little info on the icon and what it represents. Basically, something better than a post on some dude‘s blog. Development of the full site has been pushed to the back burner on several occasions for various reasons. I was certain we were going to launch for the May 1 CSS Reboot. All the while, I had been in communication with Mozilla in regards to a license to attach to the icon. 9 out of every 10 emails I received on the subject of the feed icon were to do with terms of use and licensing, and I knew this was an issue that needed to be addressed before the new site launched. As we approached May 1, emails were bouncing back and fourth and I was beginning to get a little worried as I was receiving snippets of a draft that was in the works. Then the day came when I received a full draft that covered everything from a formal trademark policy to visual guidelines. I say I was a little worried, because they looked pretty much like legal documents, and this is not what I was expecting in the least.

It’s been a solid couple of months since I received the draft and no word has been said on the matter. Then as I’m checking my feeds on Monday, I see that Opera has a new build out of beta 9. In the known issues section is “Old RSS Icon.” followed by…

Regarding the old RSS icon: Mozilla would like us (and other users of it) to sign an agreement on the use of the feeds icon. We fully respect their rights to the icon and will not use it as long as this isn’t sorted out.

Yikes! I guess someone has been enforcing those guidelines I received weeks ago. I quickly jumped to my mail client to dig up that email and checked out the URLs that were to house the guidelines. To my surprise, they were in the same state they were 2 months ago – mostly TBD. The emails immediately started to pour in. Thankfully, real life called and I found myself out finding a new school for my daughter to go to in September among other moving related errands, instead of addressing emails with questions that I can’t answer and worrying about the potential shit storm that could like ahead.

Wednesday morning rolled around and following another “Can you ask Mozilla if they made Microsoft sign the agreement” email, Frank Hecker dropped a line. He was quick to the point in stating that he and some others were working on a new draft which can be summed up in 1 paragraph and 3 points…

The feed icon is somewhat unusual; although it was originally created for use with Firefox, it’s not really part of the Firefox or Mozilla “brands”, and our goal with the icon is not to reserve it for our own use but rather to make it available for anyone to use in the context of web syndication services based on open formats.
The feed icon as a “community mark”, Frank Hecker

  1. That a trademark license should not be required for use of the feed icon.
  2. That the Mozilla Foundation (possibly in conjunction with others) publish a set of non-legally-binding usage guidelines for the icon.
  3. That the Mozilla Foundation/Corporation, other software vendors, and others with commercial interests in the icon make public statements regarding their commitment to use the icon and comply with the guidelines.

Frank has since published his proposed usage guidelines along with some frequently asked questions. I hope this helps to clear the air and bring relief to those that seemed to immediately get up in arms over an issue that was, and still is very much in development.

And speaking of development – as of now, we are picking up where we left off with feedicons.com and moving forward as originally planned. Online colour picker and all! It’s funny how some will get all up in my face with the guidelines to point out what I am well aware of and fully agree with. I simply choose not to comply on a single point (well, maybe 2).

I don’t like orange; can I use the feed icon in a different color?
You’re free to ignore the proposed guidelines and use another color, but we strongly recommend that you not do so. We believe that the color of the icon is an important visual cue for people, and that changing the color would disrupt that cue and could confuse users. (Just as, for example, changing the standard colors used for road signs could confuse drivers.)

The fact of the matter is – people are going to change the colour. Period. Hell, even Safari and Opera are sporting blue RSS buttons in their address bars. I’m sure it took a new user of either browser a click or two to determine what it was. But I bet they figured it out. This isn’t the first time the colour of a universal symbol has been altered, and it won’t be the last. Rest assured, Joe Schmoe will be able to figure out what the funny green icon with radio waves accompanied by the word “subscribe” means if he’s seen it once before.

Please keep in mind, the guidelines quoted above are still merely proposed guidelines. Nothing is set in stone, yet.


19 Responses to “Feed Icon: Trademark, Agreement, Guidelines, what?”

  1. Mine's pink and I'm not changing it for anybody! ha ha. I can see not getting too creative though, but for those in the graphic design world that's kind of common sense not to turn an existing symbol, logo (or icon) into a rainbow or give it a weird shadow, right? Maybe I'm over estimating some people. 🙂

    Thanks for mentioning this again. It was good to read.

  2. I'm glad to hear that feedicons.com is still on the stove. I remember wondering what the deal was as I was reading your latest review on Mario a few days ago. I'm glad that the idea is being taken seriously, and I'd have to agree with Natalie in that I plan on changing the color of the icon as I see fit per design. I don't think that people will go overboard with alterations, at least that's what I'm hoping. Glad to get the update, Matt, and I can't wait to see the new site when it launches.

  3. I think Mozilla is of the same mind set, that in most cases, people aren't going to go and drastically change the icon's presentation. They've also made it clear that they're basically taking 2 approaches to this. One being that software developers and web services who choose to use the icon, should fully comply to the guidelines to help inforce the standard. On the other hand, Frank had this to say about the blog community…

    …while I think it would be nice for all the Joe and Jane Bloggers to use the same color icon, I recognize that it's not going to happen in practice, and I don't think it's something worth going postal about.

    I think it's safe to say that we're all pretty much on the same page here. Now, anyway. The future of the icon is looking bright and I'm more stoked than ever to be involved in the process.

    Also, more good news! With today's weekly build of Opera 9, the feed icon returns!

  4. isn't this all kind of a wank anyway?

    the commenter on mitchell's blog is right:

    Because it can be found here:
    http://lxr.mozilla.org/seamonkey/source/browser/t
    and hence falls under:
    <a href="http://lxr.mozilla.org/seamonkey/source/browser/themes/LICENSE

    ” target=”_blank”>http://lxr.mozilla.org/seamonkey/source/browser/themes/LICENSE

    when you release something as GPL, you _are_ relinquishing control, whether you mean to or not. the only way for them to actually regain control of it would be to C+D feedicons.com, which would likely generate enough ill will to lose them their 11% marketshare.

    also, my entire desk looks pink now from staring into the sun at the comment form. 😀 i love it.

  5. Well it's a commercial need to establish a difference with competitors at least with colors, that's why you don't see Coca Cola sporting blue colors on their logos.

    This was going to happen anyway, I prefer to have a same icon in various funky colors than a lot of different eye-harming icons.

    By the way you have a damn cool layout. Greets~

  6. I believe that changing the color of the icon is out of question for me. When the user browses my site, i must give him a familiar interface to browse. Not something frustrating.

    I have been a coder many years now and this is what my experience showed.

  7. I hate to be annoying, but… Doesn't http://www.feedicons.com violate the Mozilla Feed Icon Guidelines by using the icon as the site's favicon?

    "The feed icon (or confusingly-similar variants of it) should not be used in the following contexts:

    * as, or incorporated as part of, an application icon, a web site logo (including a favicon), or in any other way that would imply to a casual observer that the feed icon was exclusively or primarily associated with a particular application or web site…"

    http://www.mozilla.org/foundation/feed-icon-guide

  8. I redrawed the feed icon and used it as a base to design new icons or redraw well known icons related to blog ideas and actions.

    The result is here: http://avi.alkalay.net/2007/05/blog-icons.html

    The good thing about my release is this:

    1. Is identical to your FeedIcon, in shape and colours.

    2. Is created with open tools and open formats: XML:SVG. No more dependency on proprietary Adobe Illustrator.

    3. It was simplified and made more precise in the XML level: all junk created by export tools were removed.

    Personally I prefer your feed icon design than the one in Firefox.

  9. Oh, and I forgot to say:

    4. It has different shapes for smaller export sizes, as 22×22, 16×16. The original shape is better for big sizes.

    5. It has more icons 🙂

  10. Any chance that we could get a vector version of the icon on feedicons.com that can be read by Freehand MX, or Illustrator? I want to make a version with a glossy finish and delete the gradient. Illustrator complains that the ai and eps were created with a newer version and you end up with pretty much nothing after the conversion. Freehand loads the EPS as a monolithic object; I can't get rid of the gradient.

    Sorry for being a pest, but I can't afford the absolute latest and greatest of every app…

  11. @Rob: Try opening the files marked with "legacy" in the file name. They were created with Illustrator CS2 I believe, but those files are compatible with older versions back to Illustrator 9 or 10 – can't remember which.

  12. Thanks Matt. I tried the legacy versions on illustrator 9, and they didn't work. Luckily a friend has 10, which had no problem. He was able to give me an even further downlevel version. Thanks for the tip and fast response.

  13. I've seen lots of different variations of the button made. 3D, Circular, Multi-colored but its still easy to pick out the feed button because of the design.

    I use your buttons on a few of my blogs. Thanks!

  14. Hey Matt,

    I wanted to thank you a ton for your feed icon package for Photoshop. Before, I had an ugly white background that didn't match my color scheme. Now it is seamless. I appreciate it greatly!